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Monson: Connors hints at Evert abortion — but to what end?

Published May 9, 2013 11:34 pm

Tennis • Bad boy and former No. 1 player offers his version in tell-all autobiography.
This is an archived article that was published on sltrib.com in 2013, and information in the article may be outdated. It is provided only for personal research purposes and may not be reprinted.

So, maybe this story comes 40 years too late, or 40 years too early. Maybe it never should have come at all. But now that it's here, tell me, what are we supposed to do with it?

Jimmy Connors hints that Chris Evert was pregnant with his child and that she had an abortion and that that decision, then, led to the engaged couple's disengagement.

If that doesn't seem like any kind of big deal, you weren't around in 1974 when the two best tennis players on the planet, one No. 1 a 22-year-old bad-boy Wimbledon champ from Illinois and the other a 19-year-old national-sweetheart Wimbledon winner from Florida, were the game's and the world's No. 1 love connection.

And then … all of a sudden, they were just two tennis players hitting passing shots in the night. Connors went his way, winning a total of eight Grand Slam singles titles and Evert went hers, winning 18.

Now, in his upcoming book, "The Outsider," Connors writes his version of what happened:

"An issue had arisen as a result of youthful passion and a decision had to be made as a couple. I was staying in an apartment and Nasty [Ilie Nastase] was there when Chrissie called to say she was coming out to L.A. to take care of that 'issue.' I was perfectly happy to let nature take its course and accept responsibility for what was to come. Chrissie, however, had already made up her mind that the timing was bad and too much was riding on her future. She asked me to handle the details.

"'Well, thanks for letting me know. Since I don't have any say in the matter, then I guess I'm just here to help.'"

Connors goes on to write that the exchange shook him up and made him realize that the marriage, planned for a short time later, was a bad move.

He subsequently told Evert that they should "take a step back and think about giving this a little more time."

Evert supposedly responded with a cold, "OK, if that's what you think. I've got a match tomorrow. Not a problem."

And that pretty much finished the relationship.

Connors writes: "It kept going back to the same old question: Can two number ones exist in the same family?"

Evert responded to news of the revelation with this statement: "In his book, Jimmy Connors has written about a time in our relationship that was very personal and emotionally painful. I am extremely disappointed that he used the book to misrepresent a private matter that took place 40 years ago and made it public without my knowledge."

Why would Connors now offer up such sensitive information from so many years back?

The skeptic says it's clear and simple: to sell books. Connors didn't get all that advance money, after all, to divulge particulars about winning the 1975 Scott's Turf Builder Open. He got it to give the good stuff, and give it liberally.

The apologist says something different: to tell the truth. As a part of a memoir that spells out Connors' life, recounting meaningful moments that shaped his existence and made him what he was, he can't sugarcoat or gloss over or leave out significant specifics.

You can choose your own answer. Some people think Connors is a jerk, even more of a jerk than they already thought he was, for the personal revelations. Others think he's just coming clean. A few think if he was going to hint at the abortion, he should have come right out and said it all plain.

Regardless of what any of us thinks, Connors was a compelling force in American tennis at a time when the international game was wild and wide open and, most importantly, interesting, filled with great players and unvarnished personalities. Alongside his own story, he addresses many of those people in the book, including anecdotes about Bjorn Borg, John McEnroe, Andre Agassi, Nastase, Vitas Gerulaitis, Arthur Ashe and Rod Laver.

Even if you believe Connors was — and is — a petulant, self-absorbed man, if you hate his dishing on what happened with Evert, but you love tennis, his memoir might be exactly what his matches were a few decades back: an exercise in celebrating himself, but still worth a look for most everybody else.

Gordon Monson hosts "The Big Show" with Spence Checketts weekdays from 3-7 p.m. on 97.5 FM, 1280 and 960 AM The Zone. Twitter: @GordonMonson.